Cranky

What do you do when you’re cranky, but can’t figure out why?

Do you go through that?

I do.

Usually coming to work fixes that.  My philosophy has always been that it’s hard enough to be sick, let alone having a cranky nurse.  Once I get on the treatment floor, usually my entire attitude changes.  I’m focused on something outside of myself–I can’t give the cranky any energy, so it gives up and leaves.

Today is different, however.  Today, I’m 3 hours into my shift currently…and I am still cranky.  I have been cranky ever since my group therapy/class I was at yesterday.

I’m being worked up for bariatric surgery.

Don’t get me wrong–I completely believe that the scale is just a number, and it is a very poor indicator of a person’s actual health.  I am very supportive of body positivity at all sizes.  We are all unique, beautiful creatures, and our mental health need not be a slave to numbers.

However, there are times when a person’s body composition negatively impacts their health.  Mine has resulted in insulin excess and resistance–the extra insulin levels in my blood cause me to gain extra body fat at an abnormal rate.  My hormone levels are all out of whack.  I’m struggling with infertility, and my husband and I both desperately want children.

And I’m tired.  And as I gain weight, I am having a harder and harder time doing my job.  My back hurts.  My feet hurt.  I have worsening sleep apnea.

So I made a choice.  A choice to try to save my life.

This also means, however, that I have to face some difficult facts.

I’m a classic binge-eater.  Surgery decreases the amount you can eat in one sitting, but it doesn’t fix the impulses that result in binge eating.  And you can definitely stretch out your stomach pouch from over eating after surgery.  This is one reason why people will regain the weight after having weight loss surgery.

So, a requirement for me to have the surgery is I have to complete this class called “BEST”…which is basically binge eating prevention strategies.  It’s group therapy.  I have to attend 4 sessions of it, and each week focuses on different things like stress management and goal setting, etc.  Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I have taken A LOT of psychology courses in my time–and they haven’t yet told me anything I don’t know.  This becomes irritating for me after awhile because it’s 90 minutes of talking about things I am aware of–and of course there’s always that one person who has comments for EVERYTHING, or over-explains their point.  Not that I’m never guilty of this, I definitely am, but this person’s obvious anxiety threatens to set off my own anxiety.  It’s difficult.  The one beneficial thing is that I am utilizing the skills taught, and THAT is teaching me things about myself.

Knowledge is useless if we don’t apply it.

So I’ve been cranky.

Now I’m at work, and for the first time in a long time, it’s not helping.  I know that I’ll go to the gym after work today–maybe that’ll help?

Changing the eating habits makes it difficult, too.  Instead of getting the dopamine dump of eating crappy comfort foods…well, I’m not getting the crappy comfort foods.  I know that this, too, shall pass, but the mood shift has been a challenge, and I cannot wait for my body to renormalize.  But it is a wait.

I think that this is part of the challenge of balance.  Yes, we can do cleansings and meditate and use crystal therapy, but NONE of these things are going to create an instantaneous, let alone permanent, improvement.  It takes time.  It takes persistence.  It takes faith, and willpower, and visualization of the goal.

Magic is in everything we do.

Do it.

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Dayton PPD 2017

This past weekend I had the pleasure to attend Pagan Pride hosted by the Dayton Pagan Coalition in Dayton, OH.  I was able to stay overnight with my brother and sister in law in Columbus, as well–which meant that I got to see my super amazingly adorable awesome goobery niece, whom I just adore (she’s a little over 3 years old).  It was a great opportunity to visit with friends and family both.

And to make new friends!

When I arrived, I met up immediately with my friend, Cara Mia (cutewitch772…google her!).  She was doing the opening ritual and presenting a workshop titled “Pagans and Prejudice” based on a research project she did in a class she took in her undergraduate studies.  As the theme for this Pride was “Walking Our Earthen Path,” she asked her partner and I to do the primary invocations to the God and Goddess–of course, she asked me about 10 minutes before ritual started, LOL.  Thankfully I am well versed in impromptu ritual and can do an invocation the spot.  Additionally, I had an even greater pleasure in being able to invoke the Goddess in a ritual where Selena Fox (!!) was present!  I tried so hard not to fan-girl out, but at the end of the day I couldn’t help asking for a picture (which I will post later when I’m at my own computer) and gushing a little.  Cara’s ritual was done in the Reclaiming style, a method of worship that is not common in Ohio, and she led it with mirth and reverence, honor and humility, strength and beauty.  I was very proud to be able to call her a dear friend and to see her flourish as a priestess in her element.

Overall it was a lovely event.  The vendors were varied and friendly–I purchased a beautiful suncatcher with a quartz crystal inside of a triple moon dream catcher made of silver (which I will also post later as a picture).  I have a weakness for shiny things, and it was the shiniest thing there, and I simply couldn’t say no.  I believe the young lady has an ETSY shop and takes commissions…I will try to post her information with the picture later.

The only real criticism I have of the event was that one of the presentation pavilions was set quite far from the main festival area, and I believe the attendance was poor at those workshops for that reason as it seemed the others attracted good sized audiences.  For sure the best attended one that I saw was Selena’s “Paganism in the 21st Century,” which was a reflection on where Paganism started in America, how it has changed, what we need to do to keep on track, and what we want to see in the future.  We did a little “visioning” of what we want our future to look like, and got a chance to share those ideas.  Selena made an excellent point about having Pagan friendly retirement communities as the old guard first generation American Pagans are becoming quite elderly if they haven’t passed already.  Another woman who is in the armed forces said she would like to see Pagan military officers, as all known Pagans are currently enlisted soldiers–I wonder if we do have Pagan officers, but because of their position of authority cannot afford the complication of being out of the broom closet?  Another person suggested Pagan schools.  I also offered an idea–with my background in medicine and nursing, it is important to me to see hospitals and western medicine embrace alternative forms of healing and integrate these therapies into modern healthcare.  I believe we have better healing outcomes if we are better able to employ our hard won healing skills in the hospital setting.

Selena also led the main ritual in the middle of day, where we honored our earthen path as well as the military Pagans, active, reserve, or retired, who were present at Pride.  There was dancing and chanting, and she definitely could hold an audience.  Everyone was invited to invoke Earth in the way that was meaningful to them.  There were a couple of priestesses whose invocations knocked my socks off–they were clear vessels of the power of Nature and the gods.  It was great fun and awe inspiring.

I also made a new friend!  She is almost like the female version of my husband in many ways, but also very much like me–we are both Capricorns and were immediately able to bond over what that meant to us (i.e., we are NOT morning people, lol).  She works as a death midwife, which I feel is a very necessary role in our society.  Hospice nurses work in this capacity in some ways, but they are also married to the rules and regulations of modern medicine.  While they can give a lot of education and support, and there is a lot of emotional support needed in hospice, medicine can wear a person down and burn out their empathy.  Having people who are trained to assist with the transition into death is invaluable both to the dying and the ones left behind.  She is also a collaborator on the Pagan Perspectives channel on YouTube (co-founded by Cara as well).  I am not sure if she is OK with having her name shared, so I encourage you to go to the Pagan Perspectives channel and look around!

The Dayton area is very lucky to have such a supportive and cohesive community, and I look forward to attending Pride with them again in the future.

Blessed be.

 

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Pride in the CLE 2017

Cleveland Area Pagan Pride is the highlight of the year for me in many ways.  I love seeing all the different kinds of people, hearing folksy music, smelling incense in the air, and getting Henna tattoos.

The last two years I have also presented at PPD, and the coven has had a booth for fundraising.  As I adamantly do not believe in charging “dues” for my coven, fundraising allows us to buy supplies without overburdening any one member (e.g., candles, tools, food for feast, etc.).

The presentation went very well.  I co-taught a workshop with my long-time friend Cara Mia (a.k.a., cutewitch772…you can look her up on YouTube).  We presented “The Art of Ritual”–where eclectic and traditional ritual meet, and what to expect in private vs public ritual settings.  We also designed an impromptu ritual with the attendees.  Afterward one of the women thanked us for the presentation, and later another found me at my coven’s booth and asked if she could give me a hug–which I heartily agreed to because I love hugs!  She said it was immensely helpful for her as she had been trying to practice on her own and had some concerns about whether she was “doing it right,” and we helped her to realize that what she was doing was beautiful and meaningful.  We also connected on a mundane level because we’re both nurses.  So that was delightful.

My poor reader, however, got very burned out doing Tarot readings on the first day.  It was a strangely difficult day for a number of reasons, but she persevered for most of the day.  Truly she is one of the best readers I’ve ever known, I just wonder if all the magical people around were creating an energy-suck because she ended up staying home sick on Sunday.

This, of course, meant that I was going to try my hand at doing public cold reads.  For the very first time ever.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been reading Tarot cards on and off for 17 years.  I read for my coven and friends.  But I have never, EVER done public readings in exchange for money in all my years of practicing Wicca and reading cards.  Pro-tip?  Making your first public appearance at Pride is like jumping head first into the deep end, and there’s a giant squid at the bottom, and a hurricane coming up top, and the tie on your bikini is coming unraveled…

OK, ok, that’s kind of dramatic–but it was nerve-wracking!  It actually got better as I started to get tired because I wasn’t able to give as much energy to my nerves, I had to give myself over to the Reading of the cards, and I started picking up on things I never would have thought I’d pick up on for total strangers or even acquaintances.  One of the people I read for is a friend–but I found things in her reading that she hadn’t told anyone about, including me, so it was a great way to talk about some things she had weighing on her mind.

However, I could only read for about 4 hours before I hit burn-out.  I simply didn’t have the stamina for public readings, having never done them before.  I must have done well, though, because I did get a few tips!

It also helps with bolstering one’s confidence.  Sometimes you just don’t know what you’re capable of until you go running into it full tilt.  Taking risks and challenging yourself is how we grow.

We were also surrounded by some awesome people, including my new most favorite humans–Kim and Tom with A Creative Apothecary in Akron.  If you live in NE Ohio, or if you’re visiting, go check them out.  They’re bubbly and a little nerdy and just utterly delightful, and such a huge help to us in getting everything set up!  You won’t find kinder people, and their shop is like a safe haven unto itself.  Go check them out.  Now.  Go.  Shoo.  ::waves hands in encouraging manner::

Pride was awesome.  I’m going to be at Dayton Pagan Pride on the 16th as well, again with my friend, Cara Mia.  Feel free to say hi if you’re going to be there, too!

Blessed be.

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The Dream

Sometimes I wish…

That I could just practice and teach Yoga all day.

That I could support myself by practicing Wicca.

That I could look at cheesecake sideways and not gain 10 pounds through osmosis.

That I could work a job that didn’t physically and mentally break me apart day after day.

That I could hug every cat.

That I could save every abused, abandoned, and neglected animal.

That my boobs wouldn’t try to bust out of my bra–or that I could afford a proper fitted one.

That my beloved Emily Kittenson was still with me (RIP sweet kitten).

That I weren’t so tired all the time.

That more people practiced unconditional love.

That we weren’t so  dependent on fossil fuels.

That I could swim in a river of strawberries.  Because strawberries.

That I didn’t ache so keenly for motherhood.

That I could live in a castle with some dragons.  And a cat.

Ok fifteen cats.

Sometimes I wish…

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You Can’t Handle the Proof

OK, let’s be honest: anecdotals hardly constitute proof.  But who doesn’t love a good testimony?

Psychometry.

In short, psychometry is the art of reading an object.  Remember that scene in The Craft when the shop owner touches Sarah’s ring and says, “It was your mother’s.”  She doesn’t ask–she TELLS her.  It’s not uncommon for people who learn that someone is a Witch to ask the Witch to “read something” for them such as the cards, the Aether, the spoon with a weird bend in it they inherited from their grandmother, etc., as “proof” of their psychic ability.

Sigh.

But that doesn’t mean that these aren’t real practices with real world impacts.  Here is my anecdotal for you.

First of all, yes, I’m a High Priestess.  Yes, I realize the decision I made was pretty stupid.  Yes, I learned a lesson.  Yes, being a High Priestess does NOT mean you know everything or that you will never make a mistake.

I made a mistake.

In the coven I’m now studying with, the High Priest had a break up that, to my understanding, did not go well.  Eight months later, he finally had his belongings returned to him.  Not only did he re-acquire said belongings, but his ex also returned (all of? not sure) gifts that had been received.

Understandably, my High Priest did not want to keep these things around with the negativity and animosity associated with them.  One of the gifts was a beautiful set of pentacle earrings.  As he had just acquired these earrings, he had not cleansed them, and he gave them to me with the caveat–“burn them, salt them, bury them, whatever you have to do, but they’re yours if you want them.”

I like shiny things.  I took them.

Now, the chain on my every-day pentacle necklace broke.  It feels very strange not to wear one, so, silly me went, “Oh, I know, I’ll wear my new earrings!  What harm can they do if I just wear them for a day or two until I get a new chain?”

SO. MUCH. HARM.

Nothing physical.  But emotionally?  Damn.

Within 24 hours I spiraled deep into a horrendous depression.  I felt worthless, unmotivated, and even trapped by my life.  Now, I don’t know the circumstances under which this aforementioned relationship ended, but heck if I didn’t almost feel like I was breaking up with myself.

As soon as the depression set in I took the earrings out.  It took two days, but I’m just about out of the depression cycle.

Those earrings are going have the bejesus cleansed out of them, and then I think I’m going to try wearing them for just a couple of hours at a time.

Lesson learned.

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Wicca and Depression

I remember the first time I truly struggled with depression and anxiety.  It was my sophomore year of college, and I learned that a chunk of my financial aid was being taken away–and that my school was increasing its tuition by 10%.  As I was attending a private university, this meant, in sum total, that I would be going into three times as much debt as I had planned on to complete my degree.  I looked into transferring out, but all of the colleges I was interested in were doing the same thing.  Regardless of where I attended, the bottom line was the same, and I was unwilling to give up a college education.

The anxiety set in.

This is not the only thing that triggered the fundamental problem.  There is no One Event that results in anxiety and depression.  My least favorite question in the world is, “What caused it?”  There is no simple answer.  While I can point to the straw, the camel’s back was buckling already under an invisible weight.  Depression and anxiety are common in my family.  I put a lot (and I mean A LOT) of pressure on myself to perform academically (ever see what happens to a 4.0 student who gets their first B? It’s not pretty).  I had body image issues with being overweight.  I was unsure of my major.  I was committed to a fringe religion and had my first real brushes with discrimination in the last year.  My brother had graduated college, and suddenly the neat little track we were promised in public school education dropped out from underneath him–get a degree, get a job was no longer a promise in the economic climate we were entering in our post-graduate lives.  The future looked grim.

But does any of this point to a “cause” for depression?

No.  We can only conjecture.  Mental health is a tricky beast.  We operate with what limited understanding we have of the human brain and nervous system, but we have hardly uncovered all of its secrets.  Some mental health seems to be affected by hormones, neurotransmitters, and other chemicals–others seem to be conditioning and training, even physical abnormalities in the nervous system.  Taking a more esoteric look at it we can make an argument for the effect of energy: positive ions vs negative ions, crystalline vibration dissonance (such as wearing hematite ALL THE TIME), chakra imbalances, psychic vampirism, etc.  Who is to say where the truth lies?  We can only do more and more research until we have the answers.

What do we do in the mean time?

I also remember when I first got treated.  I had an amazing, and I do mean AMAZING, counselor at college.  She was in the graduate program, and she was not only able to help me process my disordered thinking, but she gave me the tools I needed to manage my anxiety.  However, as the depression and anxiety both were developing over a long period of time, there was also a chemical component, and together we made the decision to seek pharmacological help.

I was worried.

Why?

Well, I was a First Degree initiate in my tradition.  I was working toward my Second Degree, and I eventually wanted my Third when the time was right.  Plus, Wicca has a reputation for being crunchy-granola: if it isn’t 100% natural, it isn’t 100% Wiccan.  Herbs?  Awesome.  Candles?  Excellent.  Crystals?  Oo powerful shiny rocks.

A pill?

POISON.  BIG PHARMA.  ALERT, ALERT! HYPOCRITE!  PLAY-GAN! SHE’S A WITCH, PAWN OF SATAN, BUR–oh, wait, that’s actually OK.

Somehow pharmacological treatment for mental health has become demonized across the board.  Not only is there stigma in the general population, but even the Pagan population seems to have its nose in the air because Lexapro isn’t “natural.”  Somehow St. John’s Wort is acceptable because it grows outside, even though there is no knowing the potency of any particular supplement even if it is home grown, but Prozac is unacceptable because it was developed in a lab.

I don’t know, I always felt a flask on a bunsen burner was a lot like a cauldron over a hearth fire.

Here’s the trick though: Everything is a chemical.  Whether we create reactions in a lab (cauldron?) or it falls from the sky (acid rain?), it’s a chemical.  As a Witch, as a healthcare practitioner, I care less about whether “we” created it vs. Mother Nature and more about whether it is effective with acceptable side effects.

Side Note: Everything has side effects.  If anyone tells you it has no side effects, they are lying.  Herbs have side effects, tea has side effects, pills have side effects, food has side effects.  The trick is whether the desired effect outweighs the consequences of the undesired effects.  Balance.  Crops up in everything.

So why not take a pill if that’s what’s going to help?

I asked my High Priest at the time.  I was worried I could no longer practice Wicca.  In my defense, I was 19.  I didn’t know all of the “rules.”  I also didn’t know if taking a pill would affect my ability to practice magick–would it block me?  Specifically I was taking Lexapro, which is an anti-anxiety medication.  In my experience it helped to even me out–I was neither super sad nor super happy, I was “numb” but it was such  blessed relief from the anxiety that I appreciated the way it made me feel because it gave me the freedom to make the non pharmacological tools work, to focus on the habits and skills I would need when I was ready to come off of the Lexapro.  There was worry though–I was numb.  So much of my experience of magick was being able to feel the energy, which has an emotional component to it.  He had given us, his students, a series of energy-based exercises to work on, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do them.

I remember his response.  In fact, I think I have it printed out somewhere…ah yes, here:

Friday, September 30, 2005

Merry Meet Ariawn*,

Just a quick note.  I’m glad you’re ok and I suspect what I was feeling was the difficulty you were having re: anxiety, etc.  Not to worry, prescribed medications won’t have any effect on your ability to function.  if a condition were one of psychosis or you needed them to function at all, it might be a concern, but you aren’t in that category.  I would only be concerned about the use of “non prescribed” sorts of medications.  While we have a history of these things being part of our culture we no longer condone their use.

I’m glad to hear you’re doing well in school (though I’m not surprised).  Thanks for answering so quickly and Goddess protect you always.

Love and Blessings,

Dragoman*

*Names changed from given to Craft to protect identities.

I remember being in awe that he could so quickly without further questioning accept and support my use of prescription medication for anxiety.  Now, I am aware that not everyone will agree with everything he said as there is much evidence to support “non prescription” sorts of medications (i.e., he was talking about marijuana in case that wasn’t clear) for treating anxiety, but the underlying concept I am trying to get across is there: Prescription medication in itself will not cause a person to not be able to do the exercises, to do the magick, to function.  Magick as functioning.

If anything, what I learned was that practicing Wicca helped with my anxiety and depression.  Many of the tools I was given were akin to what I did in my practice, I just had to alter them to suit my needs.  For instance, rhythmic breathing helps to trick your nervous system out of fight or flight, which is essentially where the feelings of anxiety stem from.  Rhythmic breathing is also something we use for meditation and to induce altered consciousness for magick.  My counselor also encouraged me to write letters to help purge my emotions–much as we might write out a spell and burn it to release its energy.  She encouraged me to develop routines–what are routines but mundane rituals?  And of course balance, speaking of life as a wheel where each component is a spoke, but if the spokes are uneven, the wheel has a hard time turning against the ground, and developing ways to rebalance each of the spokes.

Wicca helped me with my anxiety and depression.  Did it “cure” it?  Well, no.  I don’t really think there is a “cure” but you can find peace and balance again.  Wicca, and my counselor, and Lexapro, helped me to find that balance, taught me how to maintain it, how to recognize when the imbalance was happening again, and how to stop it in its tracks.  And as I am human and sometimes fail at this, Wicca has also given me a support system to help point me back on the right track.  The support of my family, my friends, are invaluable.

I do wish we could clear up depression like an infection.  “Oops, looks like you have a serious case of depression going on, with a secondary infection of anxiety.  10 days of this anti-depressive medication and 5 days of this anti-anxiety balm should fix it in a jiffy.  Call me in two to three days if you don’t see any improvement or you spike a fever.”  Perhaps one day we will be able to isolate a “depression virus” and develop a vaccine–which I sincerely hope will be packaged with smiley-face stickers.

Until, then, though, know that you have numerous tools at your disposal and the support of many like yourself to help you through this.  There are counselors, doctors, friends, family, other Wiccans, medications, and methods to help you to manage and improve how you are feeling.  And you are worth it.  And you are loved.  And you are wanted.

Blessed be.

~Ariawn

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Neophyte Again

One of the things we must realize when we are leaders and teachers is that we are also always followers and students as well.  To lose sight of this is to lose the ability to grow.

I have studied Wicca for over 15 years.  I have a coven, I am a High Priestess in my own right.

This March, I became a neophyte again.

There is a strange discomfort that comes with opting to both be a neophyte and High Priestess at the same time.  To simultaneously be responsible for my own education in one group, and responsible for the education of multiple others in another group.  Becoming a neophyte means also undergoing change, cutting and clearing away that is unnecessary, and being pushed out of one’s comfort zone.  It is not merely a return to basics, but it’s own process of rebirth.

I started in fairly decent health, stable job, and some pretty serious depression.  Since the ceremony, I have spent one month hospitalized, my employment situation has experienced upheaval, as has my husband’s, and I’m pretty seriously NOT depressed.  I still have some anxiety, but in some ways I feel that I have shaken off shackles, shackles of my own making.

If you’ve ever considered hitting the “restart” button on your practice, keep this in mind: it is not as simple as revisiting old topics.  Your spirituality is intimately connected with your life–it may mean hitting “restart” on multiple areas as a collateral effect.  Be sure you are ready, that you are stable and have support and resources to help you through the transition.

However, the benefits are well worth it.  The sense of calling I have had from the Goddess, the need to serve the gods, the clarity of thought, ability to prioritize and appreciate the world more deeply, to feel reconnected to the energy again…these have been invaluable to me.

And to my lovely husband who has struggled with me every step of the way–words cannot express how much I love you.  Thank you for supporting me and being my partner in all things.

Blessed be.

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